Are you in a profession that influences how, where, or what gets built and landscaped? Many of us – planners, builders, landscape architects, developers, designers, engineers and architects – can play a major role when it comes to addressing safety in fire-prone environments.
Keeping Firewise principles in mind throughout the site planning and design, construction, and development phases ensures that communities are better prepared for the next wildfire.
Living in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)
Catastrophic property losses would not occur if fires happened in remote, uninhabited areas. But many of us choose to live in an area known by fire managers as the wildland urban interface, or WUI (pronounced “WOO WEE”). The WUI is where vegetation (trees, scrub, grassland), people, and structures exist together. Living in the WUI increases the likelihood that fire can damage one’s home or property because brush, grass, and forest fires can easily spread from the wildland to one’s home. Conversely, human sources of ignition, such as escaped debris burning, can spread to nearby flammable vegetation and threaten neighboring properties. Wildfire hazard in the WUI should be taken seriously and there are many ways to reduce the risk of home ignition.
How homes survive
Factors such as terrain/topography, weather patterns and climate, fire history, fuels and landscape, building materials, water resources, and development patterns influence wildfire risk in the WUI. Fortunately, many of these factors – fuels and landscape, building materials, and development patterns – can be modified to reduce the likelihood of home ignition during a wildfire event. Research also shows us which modifications to homes and properties are most effective in increasing a home’s survivability during a wildfire. Firewise principles embrace this science and make specific recommendations for landscaping and construction decisions.
Make it Firewise
What lies in a fire’s path can become “fuel” – this includes homes, decks, fences, trees, ornamental shrubs and mulch. Make the right choices about new and existing development and landscapes by following Firewise principles.
Building safer from the start
By building safer from the start, communities of tomorrow have a better chance of surviving – and thriving – in a fire-prone environment.
Safer From the Start – A Guide to Firewise-Friendly Developments (PDF, 4 MB)
This guide addresses the interests of developers and people living in community associations at risk from wildfire. It provides information on how to integrate Firewise concepts into design and development, as well as their covenants, conditions and restrictions and architectural rules.
Safer From the Start Video
This video illustrates how the Firewise community River Bluff Ranch (Washington) incorporated Firewise principles from the beginning. Listen to developer Chris Heftel explain how he worked with the Spokane Fire Chief to better design the community for withstanding future widlfire events.
Retrofits and home improvement
Many of our homes and communities have already been built in environments likely to experience wildland fires. The good news is that there is a lot that can be done to a property to protect it from potential damage.
Designing the Firewise landscape
Ample research exists to guide landscaping decisions so that designers and homeowners can feel confident about creating Firewise gardens and yards. State Cooperative Extension Services provide specific Firewise plant lists for local application. In addition, the Firewise Guide to Landscape and Construction provides useful tips applicable to all landscapes.
Regulations and Plans
Plans, policies, and regulations can be effective tools to address wildfire hazard. This may include the enforcement of Firewise principles through landscaping ordinances, building codes, or covenants. Learn more about recent legislation, planning and regulatory mechanisms.
There's always more to learn about Firewise
Check out our pages on grants & resources and our online catalog for ways to get assistance and free materials to help in your wildfire safety efforts.
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